Olympic forecast: U.S. to top medal table; China, Russia next

Rio de Janeiro
AP
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — If the Rio de Janeiro Olympics were held today, the United States would win the most medals — and the most golds. And American swimmer Michael Phelps would collect five more gold medals and a bronze, bringing his overall total to 28 with a career gold-medal haul of 23.

Simon Gleave has been crunching the Olympic numbers for four years, putting them through a data-processing program as the head of analysis for U.S.-based Gracenote, a sports and entertainment data provider.

“In terms of medal-count and order, it’s going to be close to what we have,” said Gleave, who in 2012, using a less sophisticated program, predicted within four medals the results of 16 of the top 20 teams.

Gleave will issue updates again in June, July and August, just days before the Aug. 5 Opening Ceremony. He expects a few minor changes, but nothing major.

Gleave is picking the United States to top the table with 42 gold and 102 overall. China will be second with 31 gold and 78 overall, which is the same one-two order as London four years ago. The next teams in order of gold are: Russia (22), Australia (18), Britain (17), Germany (15), Japan (12), South Korea (12), France (10) and the host country Brazil (9).

“You could look at this as if these are the stories before they happen,” Gleave said in an interview with The Associated Press.

For years, Italian Luciano Barra has predicted the medal count, basing his results on World Championships results leading up to the Games.

Gleave has gone several steps beyond. He tracks World Championships, Grand Prix events, Grand Slams and even some continental championships — then gives more weight to the most recent events, and the most important events.

Although Gleave has Russia placing third in the gold-medal and overall standings, some Russian athletes could be banned from the games over a doping scandal.

“It’s a bit difficult to know with Russia at the moment,” Gleave said. “We don’t know the sports they are going to be competing in with all the stuff that’s been going on around Russia.”

Gleave also has Phelps down for six more medals — five gold. He’s picking him to win gold in the 100m and 200m butterfly and the 200m individual medley. He’s had to guess on which relays Phelps will swim, but he picks him for gold in the 4x100m medley and 4x200m freestyle. And he figures he’ll get bronze in the 4x100m freestyle.

“We are speculating to an extent on the relays,” Gleave said. “But I don’t think that it’s a wild thing to guess.”

A few other highlights from Gleave’s predictions:

– American gymnast Simone Biles will win four gold medals, and one silver.

– Australian swimmer Emily Seebohm will win three golds and a silver.

– Chinese table tennis star Ma Long will win two golds.

– American swimmer Katie Ledecky will take four gold medals.

– Brazil will set a national record with 25 medals overall and nine gold, taking advantage of being the host nation.

– Argentina will win only two medals, its worst performance since 1992 in Barcelona when it won only one.

– Spain’s medal total will fall for the fourth straight Olympics.

The predictions are fun for fans, but they also make money.

Gleave said Gracenote sells its data to National Olympic Committees, including the United States, Australia and Great Britain. It also sells to media clients like the American television network CBS and Canada’s CBC.

“We provide them with data, and they use it in their decision-making,” Gleave said.

Gleave laughed when he was told he was taking all the suspense out of the Olympics.

“As we all know, sport doesn’t always work the way we expect it to,” he said.

MORE: NBC announces Rio Opening Ceremony hosts

 

Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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